A Thanksgiving Tale


Please note that Sitwell’s is having a Hobbit trivia night this Wednesday (December 11) at 8pm, with lots of great Hobbit-related giveways – should be a great time!

This story took place back when Sitwell’s was in a different location. Back then the coffee house was in the basement of Tudor Court Apartments. At that time I lived about a block from Sitwell’s.

People see Thanksgiving in different ways. Many people see it as an opportunity to be surrounded by other people, and who can blame them? Many writers, however, see four-day holidays differently—especially novelists, who, in order to write books that are hundreds of pages along, engage in the verbal equivalent of an endless series of marathons.

Marathons take time. Like many novelists, I had mastered the art of forging ahead with a book in spite of the fact that I worked a nine to five—but nothing beats four days in a row with nothing to do but write. I was stoked when I woke up on Thanksgiving morning. All I had to do was get some coffee, since I had run out. I figured I could get some from Sitwell’s, which wasn’t open for business, but had a tradition at that time of hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner.

When I got there, I asked if I could buy a pound of coffee, and even though I was a regular I was turned down. Nor could I buy a cup of coffee. They weren’t open for business, and I couldn’t give them an IOU or any of that business.

Can I function without coffee? Sure, but let’s face it: coffee, to many fiction writers, is like whiskey is to a blues artist. In many respects writing a novel is an endurance battle, and caffeine helps. So, while I was contemplating the possibility of writing dull, flat prose for the rest of the day an employee started talking about the free dinner that day. I had assumed that it was only for the needy. The employee emphasized, however, that it was open to anyone who wanted to come. “Why don’t you come back?” she said.

At that moment a humongous 5,000-watt light bulb went off in my head.

A couple hours later I returned to Sitwell’s. The room I walked into was full of people, many of whom I knew because they too were regulars at Sitwell’s. I hung and out and chatted with folks and ate lots of good food, including turkey, which has lots of Triptophan, which has long regarded as an enemy of potentially productive writers.

I more than counteracted that, however, by drinking massive amount of caffeine—and after leaving Sitwells, I spent the rest of my long weekend writing.

What happened that day taught me something. For one day a year, no matter how much you plead, there are situations where people absolutely refuse to sell you something – and believe me, there was absolutely no way the employees at Sitwell’s were going to allow me to make a cash transaction.

They were more than happy, however, to give me something. For me that reinforced what Thanksgiving is all about. Here’s hoping you receive a little reinforcement yourself this year.

Northside Record Fair on Saturday

100_4802The second annual Northside Record Fair takes place this Saturday, November 23rd. The first record fair was a huge success, with a full house from beginning to end. (I know; I was there.)

This record fair will take place at the Northside Presbyterian Church, 4222 Hamilton Ave from 11am to 4pm. Admission is $5, but if you want to be an early bird, $10 will get you in at 10am.

The last I heard there were still two tables left for vendors; full tables cost $25 while half-tables cost $15.

I wrote a blog entry about last year’s record fair and included some photos. Here’s a link to that blog entry.

Because I write about vinyl so often, I also want to sneak in that I recently created a “category” on the right side of this page called “vinyl.” Entries have to do with record stores, record shows, local record labels that are vinyl only, and so on – so if you have a second, check it out.

Also, my friends King Reeves and Charlie Wilson and their sextet will be performing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in its entirety (and other Coltrane compositions) at the Blue Wisp on Friday, December 6th from 7pm to 10pm. Included in the sextet will be saxophonist Eddie Bayard, a very powerful tenor player who is very well-respected by the jazz community on a national level. Also, the band will include not one but two drummers, which is something that Coltrane used to do. Here’s some footage I shot one night when Bayard was soloing and the band only had one drummer. Imagine what kind of damage they could do with two:


Lentz and Company on Ludlow Avenue


A new vintage shop has opened in the Gaslight District. Located at 339 Ludlow Avenue, Lentz and Company adds a splash of color to the neighborhood, with an emphasis on cool-looking mid-Century home goods as well as local art. In its own words, “You’ll find retro kitchenware and bar accessories, chic to cheap vintage furniture as well as a carefully curated collection of kitsch.” Tentative store hours are 1pm to 8pm Wednesday through Saturday. They have a Facebook page, and the owner of the store, Leigh Ann Lentz, can be reached at leighann@lentzandcompany.com.

In other news, last night I attended the film Capital at the Esquire Theatre. As was the case with the now-departed Capital, some Esquire movies come and go in a week, so it pays to check the Esquire’s website. The film was directed by Costa-Gavras, the Greek-born French filmmaker who got worldwide attention when he released Z in 1969. There’s a lot to love about Z, including the cinematography, the suspenseful plot, the soundtrack, and the fact that the Irene Papas appears in it. The semi-fictionalized account of the assassination of a Greek politician, Z laid bare the widespread corruption in the Greek government.

Capital focuses on corruption of a different nature: the upper echelon of the financial world. Initially while climbing the corporate ladder the main character is less ruthless than many of his colleagues, and even as he becomes more cutthroat he does so with a sense of detachment. Although the French bank he works for finds plenty of opportunity to play dirty, American financiers who bully him into making ruthless decisions take nastiness to a whole nother level. Here I’m reminded of a film I saw at the Esquire in 2001, Eloge de l’Amour (In Praise of Love), in which fellow French director Jean-Luc Godard depicts Americans as monsters spreading their tentacles worldwide. Near the end of the film the main character turns nasty to three women—his wife, the supermodel he rapes, and an idealistic fellow executive—suggesting that the energy behind amoral corporate interests is a beefed-up form of hyper-aggressive and mindless masculinity.

During the film the question arises whether there’s any way to fight against such forces. The answer appears in the last scene, when the main character turns to the camera for the first time and announces in a matter-of-fact manner that even if he tried to expose corruption everything would turn out the same in the end. He predicts that the system will explode. History may prove him wrong, but there are plenty of folks working night and day to prove him right.

Shiny and the Spoon Live at the Esquire

The roots and Americana band Shiny and the Spoon will perform at the Esquire Theatre this Saturday, November 16.  The show starts at 11 pm that evening, and the cover is $3.00. The concert will include vintage photos of Cincinnati appearing on the big screen while the band plays. Since forming in 2008, Shiny and the Spoon has blossomed into one of the better-known bands around town. The four-piece includes long-term Gaslight Property employee Pete Brown, who plays a mean upright bass. There are two things to love about the show: it’s taking place at Clifton’s 100-year-old movie theatre, and it starts at 11 pm. That means you can have a drink or two before the show—and a drink or two while you’re at the show, as the Esquire serves beer, wine, and cocktails. Here’s a video of Shiny and the Spoon in performance:

Wadjda Tells a Great Story; It’s at The Esquire

Currently at The Esquire, Wadjda is the story of a 10-year-old girl living in Saudia Arabia. The bare bones of the plot involve her attempts to obtain a bicycle. That may sound undramatic, but the trials she undergoes in her quest end up exposing much of what’s wrong with fundamentalist Muslim society, not just for females, but for everyone. The movie does so in a non-didactic fashion, with rich, fully developed characters.

In this movie you can feel the oppression—even with young schoolchildren like Wadjda and her classmates. Wadjda’s desire to ride a bike turns out to be a radical act, as doing so is frowned up by fundamentalist Muslims. The struggles Wadjda and her classmates undergo are paralleled by Wadjda’s mother, whose inability to bear a second child has her husband seeking Wife #2. The parallels also extend to the director of the film, Haifaa Al Mansour. Because she’s female, Haifaa was forced to jump through all kinds of extra hoops to make the film.

In movies that expose society’s ills characters sometimes feel like stick figures, but not here. Even when they act in a sexist manner, the male characters seem like real human beings. For them, as with the woman, there’s little wiggle room in such an oppressive society, and you sense that, like the women, the men are also ready to see their society evolve. As the charming and industrious Wadjda wheels and deals her way in the direction of bicycle ownership, she finds support in unexpected places. Her allies include the boy who inspired, due to her competitive streak, the desire to own a bike—and someone who, unexpectedly and at the last minute, lends a helping hand.